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Subject: Ludology 209 - The 6 Zones of Play rss

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Gil Hova
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Emma, Gil, and Scott discuss a theory Scott is working on that describes 6 distinct physical zones when playing a board game. How does the physical dimensionality of a board game affect its gameplay?

http://ludology.libsyn.com/ludology-209-the-6-zones-of-play

Read more about the 6 Zones of Play here:

https://mrbossdesign.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-6-zones-of-pla...

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/94203/pleasure-arousal-do...

Based on feedback from user Manozaidimai, going forward, I will start listing the names of games mentioned in each episode. Here are the games we brought up in this episode:

The Rival Networks
Abandon All Artichokes
Rayguns & Rocketships
Machi Koro
Dominion
Wingspan
Space Base
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Take It Easy
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Above & Below
Teburu (electronic gaming table)
Mansions of Madness
Detective
Nightmare
Escape: Curse of the Temple
Pingo Pongo
X-Wing
The Networks
High Rise
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Stephen Miller
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Some general thoughts on on the concept, as I understand it, and obvious questions it raises:

On Zone 1 (Dominant hand) = public; Zone 3 (Tableau) = private - What does that mean for things behind player screens, people who use card holders for physical accessibility, and so forth? Does that just move the dominant hand zone out of the, well, dominant hand, or does it fundamentally change the concept? Do people interact with their hand if it's on the table via a rack or behind a player screen vs physically being in their hand.

I'm also curious how this theory interacts with multi-handing co-ops in solo games, where you'll often be interacting with multiple hands at once (and depending on the game might handle those hands differently - The way I lay things out when playing AH:TCG two handed is vastly different from when playing Pandemic 3 handed)

Also is the reason why placing a doom token awkwardly next to the mythos deck in AH:LCG helps me remember to start the mythos phase by adding a doom token by placing a reminder of a Zone 5 action into Zone 4, or is that something else entirely?

Some questions that I'm not sure even make sense within the concept but they've come to mind since listening to the episode that I'd have are:

What is my Zone 3 - my tableau - to you? Is it a sideboard, and existing in Zone 5? Part of the global board, and existing in Zone 4?
What is my Zone 1 to you? Out of play but not out of the game entirely, so zone 6? Is part of my Zone 1, such as the amount of cards I have within my Zone 3 since some of that information is public in some games?
What zone is my hand in Hanabi, or my letter in Letter Jam, where my cards are facing away from me, so that only I do not know what they are?

The weird zoning of Story/Scenario books, Apps, and VHS cassettes:

I think I'm somewhere in between Scott and Gil on story books - As much as I enjoyed reading from the story book in Mice & Mystics, the experience of remembering triggers, getting out the book and advancing the scenario when exploring tiles, and so forth created a bit more of a disjointed experience than games that put it onto cards like the AH:LCG (essentially moving the story experience from Zone 6 into Zone 4), even though the narrative has to be briefer when done via cards (A usecase for the ridiculous oversized cards of some of the games I grew up, perhaps?)

Tales of the Arabian Nights feels in between those to me. Certainly not Zone 4, but feels more present than Zone 6 ever feels to me. Maybe Zone 5? Or possibly someone else's Zone 1 that gets passed around the table? Because when I'm holding the book it feels just as easy to work with as a CYOA or Fighting Fantasy book - and I'd definitely file those as games that take place entirely within zone 1 and 2.

As for Mansions of Madness - Until I got used to the app. and specifically switching between app and game, it caused me a headache switching from 'how you interact with things in an app' and 'how you interact with things on a tabletop' - I may have tried to advance the game by tapping the physical ? chit rather than the app representation of the tile a couple of times in my first game, but the app itself felt more Zone 5, maybe even Zone 4, than the Zone 6 experience of the Mice & Mystics scenario book.

I'm not convinced that VCR games, or the audio in Escape: Curse of the Temple, are Zone 6 - At their most distant they feel Zone 5 to me, but considering they're far more effective at their job than a sand timer (Zone 4) - who hasn't noticed 2 minutes after a sand timer in the middle of the table runs out that there's no more sand in it when playing a game? - Meaning they're less out of mind, and less likely to be forgotten about - less distant - than the unambiguous Zone 4 way of handling it; a sand timer and deck of cards on the board - while clearly not being zone 1-3.

Is there an argument that they're Zone 4 despite being part of the sound and visuals of the room you're playing in rather than being in the middle of the table? Or is there a possibility they're something else entirely? Scott's come across as hesitant to extend Zone theory to include Zone 0 as the mind, since the is about where things are within the game space, but what if this represents some sort of zone ξ? The room ambience that impacts how easy it is to focus on all of zones 1 through 6 - the lighting, noise level, a soundtrack a DM puts on and manipulates during the game, a zone that contains all the zones, along with the magic circle itself, helping or hindering the ability to enter into the magic circle (which is clearly easier in an environment with good lighting, no background noise outside of the game, and so forth), and games like Atmosfear and Escape give this zone rules context which it is normally completely lacking)

General thoughts on off the cuff comments:

Dominion - You mean trying to do a face down discard pile wasn't just my dad? I can't guarantee he didn't do any given thing Emma mentioned in her description of her vegetable deck builder, come to think of it.

Handiness of cards - Don't games like Bridge and Rummy fundamentally break the idea that you should never have more than 8 cards in a hand? Rather than being an awkward physical difficulty if you've been hit with a bunch of draw 2s and wild draw 4s as in your Uno example, making the awkwardness part of the 'fun', that's just... How many cards you start with in both of those games and that doesn't feel awkward. Is that just a difference between games using Poker cards vs Bridge cards, or is there something else going on? (For anyone unfamiliar, poker cards are 2.5 inches wide, bridge cards are 2.25 inches wide, both are 3.5 inches high).

While it's considered bad etiquette to 'eat with the wrong set of cutlery I've seen it argued that it's worse etiquette to put guests in a position where they might get it wrong - i.e. that the right cutlery should be brought out between courses, to ensure guests aren't able to make mistakes, even if they've never been told if they're meant to start from the outside, the inside, or a random one in the middle, or can't recall in that moment. (But, hey, I can never remember if I'm 'meant to use the fork or knife with my dominant hand, and as a child I found it so uncomfortable to do it the 'right' way round that I would actively swap the cutlery over when a table was laid out, to the point that some of the dinner ladies at my school thought I was left handed). Which just goes to double up on Scott's point about making sure the Zone 3 space works in a way to make the play flow naturally.
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Stefaan Henderickx
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This is a really interesting episode. Thank you all. It really made me think about games I enjoy and how they work with the different zones. Figuring out what Witness does with the zones made my head explode.
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Scott Rogers
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Gizensha wrote:
Some general thoughts on on the concept, as I understand it, and obvious questions it raises:

On Zone 1 (Dominant hand) = public; Zone 3 (Tableau) = private

You have this backwards. Zone 1 is the most private space. The cards literally "played near the chest" as the saying goes.

Zone 3 may be kept private by using something like a screen (for example, I was playing Awkward Guests which has a tableau but it is kept private due to a screen) or by position (like the card holder in 10 Days in the USA)

The dominant hand crosses over from private to public space and back again as it is the hand that the player uses to manipulate and execute their strategies - strategies which are usually kept private from the other players.

It's easier to think of zones 1-3 as belonging to "me" and zones 4-6 as belonging to "us" or "them" (in the case of crossing over to other player's zones 1, 2 or 3)

Gizensha wrote:
I'm also curious how this theory interacts with multi-handing co-ops in solo games, where you'll often be interacting with multiple hands at once (and depending on the game might handle those hands differently - The way I lay things out when playing AH:TCG two handed is vastly different from when playing Pandemic 3 handed)

This gets into the concept of "handiness" - the picking up and putting down of components due to the ergonomic limitations of the human form. This is why I advocate a game designer thinking about the layout of the play space. it's alot easier to do these activities if there are places for them to go ... as in the place setting example.

Gizensha wrote:
Also is the reason why placing a doom token awkwardly next to the mythos deck in AH:LCG helps me remember to start the mythos phase by adding a doom token by placing a reminder of a Zone 5 action into Zone 4, or is that something else entirely?

This is a good example of the "intrusion" that we discussed in the episode. That token is intrusive and therefore makes you focus on it, helping you to not forget to add a doom token to play.

Gizensha wrote:
Some questions that I'm not sure even make sense within the concept but they've come to mind since listening to the episode that I'd have are:

What is my Zone 3 - my tableau - to you? Is it a sideboard, and existing in Zone 5? Part of the global board, and existing in Zone 4?
What is my Zone 1 to you? Out of play but not out of the game entirely, so zone 6? Is part of my Zone 1, such as the amount of cards I have within my Zone 3 since some of that information is public in some games?

To me, your zone 3 becomes a zone 5 - once again, it's "me" (zone 3) in relationship to "them" (zone 5). Your play space becomes an extension of the common play space but one that now introduces the mechanism/emotion of "violation" of your space (as we discussed in the episode).

Gizensha wrote:
What zone is my hand in Hanabi, or my letter in Letter Jam, where my cards are facing away from me, so that only I do not know what they are?

Hanabi does a judo flip by turning zone 1 into zone 4 - the shared/public play space. It is an outlier, but a clever one.

The rest of your comments are really fun, I didn't disagree with anything in them, therefore I didn't reply.
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Isaac Shalev
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My question is what kind of monster rolls dice with their off hand?

I think there are at least two ideas that are getting braided to gether here, and sometimes that works and sometimes it creates some tensions.

First, there's the ergonomic aspects of where a body is in relation to the zones of play, how comfortable is it to access those play functions, including playing, and hiding/revealing information.

Second, there are zones of play that provide status information about the entities of play. A hand holds privately-owned hidden information with a public count. A screen prevents even a public count. A player supply is privately-owned but publicly revealed. A main board typically is impacted by many possible player interactions. A side-board is typically for a smaller subset of interactions.

Designers need to balance the affordances offered for play with the ergonomics.

Finally, I think that there are some practices we don't love, like making players juggle multiple hands of cards, but that are in fact pretty common and not so terrible. Humans are generally most dexterous with fingers and hands, and can do an awful lot of juggling without it being too much of a problem.
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Scott Rogers
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ender7 wrote:
Finally, I think that there are some practices we don't love, like making players juggle multiple hands of cards, but that are in fact pretty common and not so terrible. Humans are generally most dexterous with fingers and hands, and can do an awful lot of juggling without it being too much of a problem.

As I tell my video game design students, just because a controller has lots of buttons, doesn't mean you need to use them all. Use what best serves the game and ignore the rest.
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Jonathan Chaffer
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Can you give some concrete examples of Zone 2 being used in games? When I think about my non-dominant hand in games, there are very few times I dedicate any task to it. About the only one I can come up with is that I use my left hand to conceal my chips in No Thanks, which I suppose counts (but could be just as easily a player screen in Zone 3).
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JonBob wrote:
Can you give some concrete examples of Zone 2 being used in games? When I think about my non-dominant hand in games, there are very few times I dedicate any task to it. About the only one I can come up with is that I use my left hand to conceal my chips in No Thanks, which I suppose counts (but could be just as easily a player screen in Zone 3).

Zone 2 is in support of Zone 1. For example, I recently played Awkward Guests. I held my hand of clue cards in my dominant hand however, I also write with that hand. So, I use my non-dominant hand to hold the cards (I need to see the information on it to write it on my player aid (zone 3) so I switch cards to that hand while I record the information with my dominant hand. When I am done recording the information, the cards will be switched back to my dominant hand. Zone 2 is in support of Zone 1.
 
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Stephen Miller
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Scott Rogers wrote:
Gizensha wrote:
Some general thoughts on on the concept, as I understand it, and obvious questions it raises:

On Zone 1 (Dominant hand) = public; Zone 3 (Tableau) = private

You have this backwards. Zone 1 is the most private space. The cards literally "played near the chest" as the saying goes.

Yes, I definitely did a weird reversing of what I meant when typing that bit. Sorry for the confusion there

Quote:
Zone 3 may be kept private by using something like a screen (for example, I was playing Awkward Guests which has a tableau but it is kept private due to a screen) or by position (like the card holder in 10 Days in the USA)

The dominant hand crosses over from private to public space and back again as it is the hand that the player uses to manipulate and execute their strategies - strategies which are usually kept private from the other players.

Which brings me back to my query on how Zone 1-3 works for people who use card holders e.g. for physical accessibility. Someone who's unable to manipulate their components using card holders to look at their hand and indicate to the rest of the table (via verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal, communication methods, depending on the individual) what card they want to play. In those situations what is the difference between zone 1 and 3?

Does that make what's Zone 1 for everyone else, a private hand of cards, Zone 3 for someone using such accessibility aids? And what does that mean for their play experience compared to other players at the table beyond the simple inconvenience of needing to tell someone that they want to play the fourth card in their hand from the right compared to everyone else just playing it?

(And in case I'm coming across as trolling with this inquiry, or trying to come up with edge cases, I'm specifically curious about the play experiences that a neighbor of mine during childhood, who is sadly no longer with us, would have been having compared to the other people at the table playing the board game in question. My mother, her mother, herself and I would play board games with each other once a week, some of which - including some she would often request - did have private hands of cards)
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I was quickly struck by the difference of perspective. What is my Zone 3 to you. For _many_ players and for some games it's not relevant. But for you to be a good player in a lot fo games, you need to pay attention to it. In some games (Ora et Labora) it's fundamental. I have to know the details of what you have, and there is no chance for me to read it from my seat. Reading my zone 3 is a challenge in OeL.
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Gizensha wrote:
Which brings me back to my query on how Zone 1-3 works for people who use card holders e.g. for physical accessibility. Someone who's unable to manipulate their components using card holders to look at their hand and indicate to the rest of the table (via verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal, communication methods, depending on the individual) what card they want to play. In those situations what is the difference between zone 1 and 3?

Even though the mother of your friend has access to the cards in zone 1, she really shouldn't be looking/influencing the decisions of the cards in zone 1 (this, of course, is ignored in the case of "helping" another player whether it be due to age, inexperience, etc.) - zone 1 is still a private space, while zone 3 is a public space where all players can observe what is going on during play.

For example, zone 1 becomes treated as Zone 3 during an "open-hand" (aka friendly) game of cards (or whatever).
 
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I find that with all worker placement games I have to keep an eye on what you're up to so I know what spots I need to worry about being competitive - but it's very easy to forget about it if it's on a tableau, even beyond trickiness of reading across the table (Which I think supports Scott's response to my enquiry that it's Zone 5)
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For me, zone 1, the dominant hand doesn't hold information. If I hold a hand of cards, it's in my off hand (so zone 2), and zone 1 is purely decisive actions, like drawing a card or playing a card or rolling dice.

The thing this concept makes me wonder is if any zone is inherently bad, or if the problem is how many zones are used. SmallWorld is pretty much all zone 4 (maybe with the upcoming races being zone 5, and an optional small reference guide for zone 3). Is one or 2 zones the optimal as it constrains the number of sources of info you're tracking? After that, I think you start to run in to the questions of accessibility (like font sizes and layouts) to make the information more digestible
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Scott Rogers wrote:
Gizensha wrote:
Which brings me back to my query on how Zone 1-3 works for people who use card holders e.g. for physical accessibility. Someone who's unable to manipulate their components using card holders to look at their hand and indicate to the rest of the table (via verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal, communication methods, depending on the individual) what card they want to play. In those situations what is the difference between zone 1 and 3?

Even though the mother of your friend has access to the cards in zone 1, she really shouldn't be looking/influencing the decisions of the cards in zone 1 (this, of course, is ignored in the case of "helping" another player whether it be due to age, inexperience, etc.) - zone 1 is still a private space, while zone 3 is a public space where all players can observe what is going on during play.

For example, zone 1 becomes treated as Zone 3 during an "open-hand" (aka friendly) game of cards (or whatever).

Not influencing, but playing the card without looking at them as directed. A lot of pointing and moving fingers as directed until getting a nod. And every now and then when playing a game I think I still think 'would we have been able to play this with her' even now, over a decade after she passed away, since that's something that working out when getting a new game was part of the experience of the initial couple of plays of things. "Is it worth taking this with us in case they'd like a change of pace to the games we usually play while there." - There were a few that would often make their way over with us.
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ViolentSilence wrote:
For me, zone 1, the dominant hand doesn't hold information. If I hold a hand of cards, it's in my off hand (so zone 2), and zone 1 is purely decisive actions, like drawing a card or playing a card or rolling dice.

The thing this concept makes me wonder is if any zone is inherently bad, or if the problem is how many zones are used. SmallWorld is pretty much all zone 4 (maybe with the upcoming races being zone 5, and an optional small reference guide for zone 3). Is one or 2 zones the optimal as it constrains the number of sources of info you're tracking? After that, I think you start to run in to the questions of accessibility (like font sizes and layouts) to make the information more digestible

Your pile of victory point tokens and YOUR race is in zone 3.
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dcorbin13 wrote:
ViolentSilence wrote:
For me, zone 1, the dominant hand doesn't hold information. If I hold a hand of cards, it's in my off hand (so zone 2), and zone 1 is purely decisive actions, like drawing a card or playing a card or rolling dice.

The thing this concept makes me wonder is if any zone is inherently bad, or if the problem is how many zones are used. SmallWorld is pretty much all zone 4 (maybe with the upcoming races being zone 5, and an optional small reference guide for zone 3). Is one or 2 zones the optimal as it constrains the number of sources of info you're tracking? After that, I think you start to run in to the questions of accessibility (like font sizes and layouts) to make the information more digestible

Your pile of victory point tokens and YOUR race is in zone 3.
There is no mental load there though - once you know what your race can do, it's all about the board
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Gizensha wrote:
I find that with all worker placement games I have to keep an eye on what you're up to so I know what spots I need to worry about being competitive - but it's very easy to forget about it if it's on a tableau, even beyond trickiness of reading across the table (Which I think supports Scott's response to my enquiry that it's Zone 5)

I also support the idea that another player's Zone 3 is Zone 5 to me. Most of the content is oriented toward them, and thus away from me. The size of the content is probably designed for their proximity, not mine. And there's a sense of it being the other player's personal space that creates a mild psychological barrier.
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SirValence wrote:
Gizensha wrote:
I find that with all worker placement games I have to keep an eye on what you're up to so I know what spots I need to worry about being competitive - but it's very easy to forget about it if it's on a tableau, even beyond trickiness of reading across the table (Which I think supports Scott's response to my enquiry that it's Zone 5)

I also support the idea that another player's Zone 3 is Zone 5 to me. Most of the content is oriented toward them, and thus away from me. The size of the content is probably designed for their proximity, not mine. And there's a sense of it being the other player's personal space that creates a mild psychological barrier.

It feels different than a Zone 5 to me, for those reasons. "Normal" zone 5 is not necessarily oriented away from you, May have content design to be visible across the table, and is NOT someone else's personal space.
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SirValence wrote:
Gizensha wrote:
I find that with all worker placement games I have to keep an eye on what you're up to so I know what spots I need to worry about being competitive - but it's very easy to forget about it if it's on a tableau, even beyond trickiness of reading across the table (Which I think supports Scott's response to my enquiry that it's Zone 5)

I also support the idea that another player's Zone 3 is Zone 5 to me. Most of the content is oriented toward them, and thus away from me. The size of the content is probably designed for their proximity, not mine. And there's a sense of it being the other player's personal space that creates a mild psychological barrier.
It makes for an interesting criticism of Lords Of Waterdeep - the quest cards in a player's zone 3 are face up so other players know what they are looking for (which to me supports the zone 5 idea). However, the blocks are small and it's difficult to distinguish black from purple when the lighting isn't great. It seems almost pointless having the cards face up as they're useless at a distance.

The further problem of another player's zone 3 being intended as a zone 5 for other players (i.e. the designer wants players to monitor the other players) is that there is a lot of information to process that gets worse with more players
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Jason Perez
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Thanks, Scott! This episode helped me crystalize some work I'm doing with play and psychotherapy.

I've noticed in working with teenagers that they don't tend to respond to board games, generally. Rather, I have much better luck engaging them with a card game - Magic, Smash Up, Star Realms, that kind of thing. Listening you speak about Zones 1-3, there's a lot more autonomy in those zones, where Zone 4 is more about the big, scary world out there. From a pscyhological perspective, a teenager's main job is to guard and promote autonomy and individuation from others. It feels like a card game provides a very safe space to do that, rather than asking a teenager to give up much of their autonomy as a pawn on a larger board.

Having observed lots of teenagers at play at this point, I would argue for a "Zone 3.5", as it were. Take Magic. My mana pool is clearly in Zone 3. However, any summoned creatures go in a kind of liminal space. It's not a globally accessible zone; I still have full autonomy, can trigger powers, resummon and redeploy, etc. However, it's a place where I can expect to be intruded upon. It represents a hesitant "feeling out" space where I'm reaching out to the larger world, but still within my safety zone. I have found that space really important in helping kids explore issues of social anxiety and maintaining autonomy.

When it comes to board games and teenagers, I have mainly used board games as a form of exposure therapy. If a kid is anxious, I will (safely) turn the anxiety dial up to 11 with a game of Flash Point Fire Rescue or Pandemic: The Cure (easier and more tactile than regular Pandemic, IMO). Or more recently, I've done some work helping kids through nightmares with a game of Horrified. Still, the point stands - the board represents a scary, foreign place where autonomy has to be earned and fought for, not naturally provided as it would be in a card game.

Again, thanks for giving me more language to think some of this stuff through, and thanks for a great podcast.
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Gil Hova
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Popesixtus wrote:
Thanks, Scott! This episode helped me crystalize some work I'm doing with play and psychotherapy.

What a great insight!
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Thanks for another great episode. Very interesting stuff, especially combined with the scope lens (local/adjacent/global).

However, I'm not fully convinced about the distinction between zones 1 and 2. It seems to me that things you are directly handling and keeping in your hands, usually privately, is one zone, and the way I am thinking at the moment I can't see particular usefulness in distinguishing between your two hands. I'm clearly missing something that Scott has seen in his analysis.

Any thoughts?
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Popesixtus wrote:
Thanks, Scott! This episode helped me crystalize some work I'm doing with play and psychotherapy.

That's awesome!!!

And I will give your 3.5 concept some thought.
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